ALA Friday from the perspective of an ACRL Section Chair

Flights

Boston-Houston-New Orleans were all fine flights. Nothing big to report, other than the fact that Continental Airlines actually gave us breakfast on the first flight! Cheerios, milk, a banana, and a muffin. Not bad.

(I heard horror stories from 2 different groups of folks who were trying to get here. One guy got stranded in Chicago Thursday night and still hadn’t made it here by 5 p.m. Friday. And my Swarthmore buddies apparently flew from Philly to Houston, then encountered some issues in Houston – I don’t know if they landed or not – and ended up flying BACK to Philly. Needless to say, I’m not having dinner with them on Sunday night!)

Picked up my bags at the airport and caught a cab to the hotel. We listened to World Cup soccer in Spanish. I tried to look for traces of hurricane damage, and saw some, but apparently things have either been cleaned up along I-10, or they didn’t get hit too bad. Not sure which.

When we were driving in to the French Quarter, I was happy to see so many people. I’ve been hesitant for many reasons about coming here for this conference, and very seriously questions ALA’s decision to keep the conference here. If today is any indication, ALA made the right call.

Meetings

After I got to the hotel, I cabbed over to my Friday meeting marathon. I was only a few minutes late for New Leaders. We had lunch and then listened to various ACRL folks (executive director, president, associate director) discuss the sorts of things new chairs and new vice-chairs need to know about working with ACRL – the ACRL mission, the role of sections and committees in advancing the strategic plan, all the resources ACRL makes available to leaders, and the calendar of activities. We also got this cool matrix of ACRL member survey information, broken out by question and primary section affiliation. When this is linked online from the ACRL site, I’ll point to it.

The next meeting (after a much-needed break with my friend Kelly out on a staff-only balcony) was the ACRL Leadership Council. The ACRL president and vice-president gave reports on the work they’ve been doing, the chair of the ACRL National Conference spoke about the numbers of proposals they’ve gotten (huge numbers!), and then the president talked a lot about the work she and the board have been doing on the strategic plan. I took some notes so I can report back to my section’s executive committee and to the email list, but need to consider them some more before I write them up. Then Jim Mullins, the “environmental” guy talked about the environmental scanning that the ACRL research committee has been doing. My notes from that do not exist. Whoops. My headache was pretty bad right then.

After another much-needed break and a couple of Excedrin, we came back to talk about annual conference programs and the work that a small working group has been doing on the process of programming. Since I’ve just gone through a cycle of program planning, I was very interested in the conversation, and in figuring out a.) how to make programming easier for small sections like mine in particular, and b.) how to collaborate with other sections. Some of the issues that ACRL members have raised about programming include: too many competing programs at annual (which some pointed out are not all just in ACRL, but cut across all of ALA); desire to extend conference programming to those unable for whatever reason to attend the program (heartily endorsed by many in the room); desire to have more funding and more flexible funding for honoraria; frustration with the long lead time on programming that makes it hard to address new/cutting-edge issues; and uneven quality of programs. Some scenarios were thrown out about some ways to address these issues – many revolved around what amounts to a jury process, with one appealing to me that included a jury process PLUS the jury group identifying programming needs and asking groups to fill those needs in any given year. Lots of other ideas were suggested, both by the working group and by attendees at the meeting.

Johnny GThat meeting let out 15 minutes early, so Kelly and Penny and I went outside for a while to chat, and then headed up to Sections Council (where chairs, vice-chairs, and vice-chairs-elect of sections meet and discuss section things.) Many of the folks who talked had spoken about similar things at the two previous meetings, although we did get a new person talking about a draft tip sheet for developing subject-specific information literacy standards. It will be interesting to see how the president’s program (a debate on the necessity, relevance, and effectiveness of the standards at all) impacts the work that all the information literacy devotees have been doing these past few years.

And then Penny and I went out for drinks and dinner with the LSU Ex-Pats. Photos! Wahoo!

And rather than me say it, I’ll let Rory say it: New Orleans is not dead. It’s good to be here so far. I think the conference is going to be good.

[tags]ALA 2006, ACRL, friends, New Orleans, LSU Ex-Pats[/tags]